August 13, 2012
Many of us know about swimming dangers like drowning. But there is a lesser-known danger you can get in a pool. It is called swimmer's ear.
According to MayoClinic.com , swimmer's ear is an infection in the outer ear canal. This canal runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head. Swimmer's ear happens if water remains in your ear after swimming. The water creates a moist area that aids bacterial growth.
Putting fingers, cotton swabs, or other objects in your ears also cause swimmer's ear. These objects can damage the thin layer of skin lining your ear canal. Swimmer's ear is usually treated with eardrops. Quick treatment can help prevent more serious infections.
Swimmer's ear symptoms are usually mild at first. But they can get worse if your infection is not treated or spreads. Here are of signs of swimmer's ear that you should look out for:
Call your doctor if you are having any signs of swimmer's ear. You should call even if your signs are mild. If you have severe pain or a fever, you should go to the emergency room.
If swimmer's ear goes untreated, you can have serious problems. These can include:
Temporary hearing loss: You may have muffled hearing that usually gets better after the infection clears up.
Long-term infection: Signs can last for more than three months. These infections are more common if there are conditions that make treatment a problem. These conditions can be:
Deep-tissue infection: Constant swimmer's ear may result in the spread of infection. The infection can get into deep layers and connective tissues of the skin.
More widespread infection: A swimmer's ear infection can spread to other parts of your body. These other areas can include the brain or nearby nerves. This rare problem can be life threatening.
There are ways to protect yourself from swimmer's ear. These ways include:
Keep your ears dry. Dry your ears thoroughly after you swim or take a bath. Dry only your outer ear. Wipe it slowly and gently with a soft towel or cloth. Tip your head to the side to help water drain from your ear canal.
Swim smart. Watch for signs alerting swimmers to high bacterial counts and don't swim on those days.
Never put things in your ear. Never try to scratch an itch or dig out earwax with any item. These items include cotton swabs, paper clips, or hairpins. Using these items can pack material deeper into your ear canal. They can also irritate the thin skin inside your ear or break the skin.
Protect your ears from irritants. Put cotton balls in your ears while using products like hair sprays and hair dyes.
Use caution after an ear infection or surgery. Be careful if you have recently had an ear infection or ear surgery. You should talk to your doctor before you go swimming.